All the pretty soft­ware

CODE and NOISE

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS -

The Cin­ema Snow­globe de­vel­oped by JD Bel­tran and Scott Min­ne­man is one of the fab giz­mos on dis­play at this year’s Cur­rents fes­ti­val. The de­vice’s cre­ators are joined by 13 oth­ers in the CODE and NOISE ex­hi­bi­tion. “Scott is the tech­nol­ogy brain, and JD is the artist” and cur­rent pres­i­dent of the San Francisco Arts Com­mis­sion, ac­cord­ing to Cur­rents guest cu­ra­tor Chris­tine Du­val. “They have been able to in­sert a video that’s ac­ti­vated with mo­tion sen­sors by shak­ing, just like a snow globe. It’s quite amaz­ing to have a high-res­o­lu­tion video in­serted in that scale.”

Du­val has worked as an art cu­ra­tor for more than 20 years and is on the board of the Palo Alto Art Cen­ter. She first staged CODE and NOISE at the Art Sil­i­con Val­ley Fair in San Ma­teo, Cal­i­for­nia, last Oc­to­ber. The ex­hi­bi­tion’s focus is com­puter or “gen­er­a­tive” art, a realm that surged af­ter Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy grad­u­ate Casey Reas re­leased Pro­cess­ing, an open-source (free and mod­i­fi­able) programming lan­guage de­vel­oped for elec­tronic arts and new me­dia, in 2003. “Casey is in our show, which is ba­si­cally about soft­ware. The ti­tle’s ‘code’ ap­plies to artists who have writ­ten the soft­ware them­selves, and ‘noise’ ap­plies to artists who are us­ing some kind of soft­ware without hav­ing the abil­ity to ma­nip­u­late it. A good ex­am­ple is James Lana­han. He’s a pho­to­jour­nal­ist by train­ing, but he’s also a tech­nol­o­gist who was in­volved in de­vel­op­ing the first dig­i­tal cam­era, so he’s very in­ter­ested in the abil­ity of in­clud­ing pho­tog­ra­phy into a soft­ware.” Af­ter a trip to Europe, Lana­han had an accident that dam­aged his hard drive, scram­bling and cor­rupt­ing his photos and other in­for­ma­tion. Af­ter he used re­cov­ery soft­ware, the files were still messed up, but he loved what hap­pened to the photos. Cur­rents fes­ti­val-go­ers will view side-by-side im­ages that con­trast Lana­han’s photos with oth­ers that were “fixed” by the soft­ware.

Artist/en­gi­neer Clive Mc­Carthy, also from San Francisco, has in­vented what looks like a paint­ing ma­chine. It’s based on a pro­gram that he loaded with his own pho­to­graphic im­ages; the pro­gram uses them as the start­ing point of never-end­ing paint­ings. “He wrote this pro­gram with ev­ery sin­gle de­tail,” Du­val told Pasatiempo. “He’s able to con­trol the speed, color, brush­stroke, the thick­ness, the light. It’s mind­blow­ing. Ev­ery­thing is con­trolled by his code. It’s a com­puter soft­ware, and it’s creating the paint­ing — and it’s one of a kind. It’s con­tin­u­ous, and what­ever you see at one mo­ment [then] will be com­pletely gone.” Cur­rents has three Mc­Carthy screens.

Brook­lyn artist Laura Splan is not a tech­nol­o­gist, but she has used Reas’ Pro­cess­ing soft­ware. Her work in the past has been in the realm of science, but the ap­pli­ca­tions were paint­ings and per­for­mances and sculp­tures, Du­val said. The Splan piece in CODE and

NOISE looks like a fab­ric. “She col­lected data from do­ing per­for­mances. She hooked up to an elec­tromyo­gram and recorded her neu­ro­mus­cu­lar ac­tiv­i­ties while she moved, and the out­put can be sculp­tures or even tapestry. We will have a 7-foot hand­made tapestry that is ac­tu­ally the recording of her mus­cles.” That piece il­lus­trates Du­val’s premise: The works don’t have to be on a com­puter or even mov­ing; they’re sim­ply us­ing data from soft­ware. In an over­ar­ch­ing sense, the data are the artis­tic medium. The tapestry is also an ex­am­ple of the cu­ra­tor’s pref­er­ence to in­clude many medi­ums in her group shows.

Du­val cu­rated her first show that in­cluded tech­nol­ogy in 1998 at the Sherry Frumkin Gallery in Santa Mon­ica. “I re­mem­ber con­sid­er­ing it in 1994, but I thought, we’re not ready yet for show­ing a piece of equip­ment rather than a piece of art. For the ex­hi­bi­tion in Sil­i­con Val­ley last Oc­to­ber, I didn’t want peo­ple to look at it as a tech­nol­ogy show; I wanted it to be about the in­ten­tion of the artists. The medium is their code, but just like a painter has tubes of paint and brushes, that doesn’t take away from the artis­tic in­ten­tion or com­ment. For this show, what is amaz­ing is that ev­ery­thing is lit­er­ally hung on the walls. It’s clean, it’s com­pletely self-sus­tained, and I think that’s also why tech­nol­ogy is be­com­ing more ac­ces­si­ble and more han­dled by col­lec­tors and mu­se­ums.” — Paul Wei­de­man

CODE and NOISE, a com­puter and gen­er­a­tive-art in­stal­la­tion, is fea­tured at El Museo Cul­tural de Santa Fe, from Fri­day, June 10, to June 26.

Top, Daniel Canogar: CIS, 2014, from the se­ries Small Data, dis­carded scan­ner parts, wood, pro­jec­tor, mul­ti­me­dia player; cen­ter left, JD Bel­tran and Scott Min­ne­man: Cin­ema Snow­globe — Golden Gate Bridge; cen­ter right, Casey Reas: To­day’s Ide­ol­ogy (de­tail), July 26, 2015 (from CODE and NOISE), code, dig­i­tal im­ages, com­puter, screen; op­po­site page, top, Ak­i­hito Ito and Issey Taka­hashi: SyncDon II, 2015, in­ter­ac­tive new-me­dia in­stal­la­tion; bot­tom, Mara Baker: an­i­ma­tion still from Knock-Pe­tal-Scis­sors, 2015, sin­gle-chan­nel video

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